People ask me where these come from...
People ask me what these pieces are, what they're made of, and do I do this full-time? What they ask most often is: where do they come from?
I grew up in a small boatyard in Essex, Massachusetts. I watched many wooden boats get built and was allowed to make things myself as soon as I could use the tools without wrecking them.
I've loved airplanes and flight since I was a kid - I wanted to fly so bad - the occasional flying dream was both a treat and a heartbreak. I built so many model airplanes as a kid that my parents, worried about the obssessive nature of this, told me I couldn't bring any more into the house.
But what mostly feeds my artwork are my daydreams. I need huge amounts of time alone, and I use it walking, biking, sailing, or making the sculptures. The reverie I enter in these moments has almost all the characteristics of night dreaming: it is full of both the concrete and symbolic, anything is possible, transformations abound, and there is a strong sense of flow.
One walk: in the woods above a ridge four otherworldly turkey vultures suddenly appear rising up above the trees in absolute silence, one after the other.
And always, what drives the shapes and structures in my dreams is the flow of water and air.
The flows that these forms are responding to sometimes lead to three-dimensional elements that are unexpected or even mysterious. People are still experimenting with objects moving through air and water - in wind tunnels or test tanks and in the real world by looking at how insects fly, for example - and are still trying to imagine these flows in terms people can comprehend.
Whether we are talking about planes, birds, fish, or even a flower opening out, there is a sequence of movements, a process. For flowers, there's the whole progression of germinating, sprouting up, blossoming, pollinating, and always with the wind blowing around and the sunlight shining through the parts of the flowers.
In all my pieces, I'm trying, of course, to give a sense of objects moving through and being supported by or buffeted by, the wind or water. Even when they are birds that appear to be just perching statically - I'm hoping to convey the movement of air around the bird and the bird's positioning of itself in response.
I am also trying to leave some ambiguity and even a little sense of mystery. These pieces are are not presenting any grand theories or statements - I really do want them to speak for themselves and allow them to say different things to different people.
They might just say, "take a closer look - what's going on here?" Something a little strange for sure, something that maybe brings up a lot of other ideas or memories or dreams you've brought along. For me, it's all about standing in the back yard and watching the red-tailed hawk twist his tail back and forth as he manoevers and uses the wind, and daydreaming about what that tiny bit of aerodynamic truth might look like if it were changed a little, in structure, form, or scale.
As to what they are made of, I use pretty much the same materials (and the same tools) that are used to build a boat, a small plane or even a flying model. I use woods that are available to me, cedar from our yard, mahogany and teak scraps from boat building projects, walnut, butternut and other special woods that people give me, and pine and spruce from the lumber yard. I use the fiberglass both because of its strength (especially for its weight), and durability, but mostly because it lets the light through and keeps the pieces airy. I have been starting to work copper and bronze - both of which I used on boats - and I have some things I want to try with metal in the future.
Since a sense of movement and progression is key, you might ask where this work is headed? Well, first, much of it will be a lot bigger - scaled to fit in atria, lobbies and airports and other large spaces - and also to convey the wonder we have when we see a large object flying overhead. In addition, I may make some outdoor pieces, I have been carving some reliefs again, and I have in mind a group of pieces for installations that are a lot more abstract.
About Brad Story
Sculptor Brad Story is a native of Essex, Massachusetts and a seventh-generation boatbuilder. He has always been fascinated with flight and winged things and has been modeling and sculpting all his life.
He grew up around the family shipyard, sailing, biking, and walking near the saltmarsh, and lives on the Essex River estuary now. Red-tailed hawks, ducks, crows, owls, kingfishers, great blue heron, egrets, and glossy ibis are regular visitors.
At Kenyon College in the late '60s, where Brad earned a Phi Beta Kappa majoring in art, he began to sculpt the human form, and for the next decade his sculptures and reliefs were mostly of faces or human torsos.
In his spare time he learned to fly a Piper Cub on an Ohio grass airfield.
After a few years working as a carpenter in the midwest and western Massachusetts, Brad came back to Essex to build boats at his family's shipyard. (Most of the sculpture from this early period ended up in the woodstove.)
In his 27 year career as a boatbuilder, Brad built over 50 boats, ranging from small, experimental skiffs or daysailers to a 55' jet-drive power yacht and many traditional lobsterboats. All were made of wood or wood combined with various composite materials.
The knowledge of working in wood and materials such as epoxy and fiberglass that Brad gained as a boatbuilder is now directed towards his current sculpture. His many years of experience in "sculpting" beautiful boats, his life-long delight in looking at planes, learning how they are built and how they fly, and his fondness for the neighborhood birds all seem to have come together in these pieces.
Some are clearly more plane than bird, integrating engines, landing gear, and ailerons with avian forms and spirits; others seem more firmly linked to nature. These aerodreams, like those we dream at night, arise from both the concrete and the symbolic.
The wing tips of the red-tailed hawk who nests near Brad's studio are magically incorporated into a fixed-wing aircraft. The experimental aircraft with the canard wing that Brad sees at an airshow transforms itself into a genial duck, in a word-play on its name.
Although some pieces are essentially abstract - capturing Brad's consideration of a theoretical aspect of flight - these also sport realistic details which are wry comments on actual planes or birds.
Some dreams reoccur until the message is clear to the dreamer. Likewise, Brad Story's sculpure builds on repeating themes, threaded throughout his work:
- the mutability of perceived boundaries;
- the principles of real-world aerodynamics;
- variations on designs found in nature;
- a vision of underlying structure (skeleton, airframe, keel and ribs) as the essence of the beauty of an object and the value of a design;
- and a sensual delight in elegant shapes.
As an avid armchair aviation buff, Brad has always been fascinated with the odd, one-of-a-kind planes - the experiments that proved a fundamental or radical new idea, but were never mass-produced. He especially admires those who made the creative leap to design such experiments and takes great pleasure in making his own musings three-dimensional.
Brad Story's sculpture can be seen in several museums and galleries in the northeast, at SeaTac Airport in Seattle, at a few juried art shows each year, and by appointment at his studio in Essex, Massachusetts. See Exhibits for details or Contact for how to reach Brad Story to set up a studio visit.
About This Site
Most of the photographs of Aerodreams pieces on this website were taken by Dean Powell, 172 Middle Street, #102, Lowell, MA, www.deanpowellphotography.com. Dean can be reached at 978-452-7054.
Photos of the SeaTac inststallation are by Larry Gill.
Site design by Emma Story.
All text and images on this site are copyrighted by Brad Story, who reserves all reproduction rights to his work. Contact Brad or Beth Story for further information or permissions.